Strange Exits: Elderly bicyclist catches fire, dies

By | March 14, 2009

Strange Exits: Elderly bicyclist catches fire, dies

A man on a bicycle was found engulfed in flames on Burkhardt Avenue in Bethpage Thursday, officials said. (Photo by Paul Mazza / March 12, 2009)

An elderly man who was apparently smoking a cigarette while riding his bicycle home died Thursday after his clothes caught fire on a residential Bethpage street, officials said.

Joseph Rusin, 87, of Bethpage, was seen by a passing motorist at noon engulfed in flames and rolling on the ground on the front lawn of a home on Burkhardt Avenue, police said.

The motorist, a FedEx driver, used a fire extinguisher from his truck to put out the flames, officials said.

Det. Sgt. Les Meister, of the Nassau police Arson/Bomb Squad, said the fire is not suspicious. No one saw the fire start, Meister said.

Rusin was probably smoking a cigarette, which ignited the nylon jacket he was wearing, said Vincent McManus of the Nassau County fire marshal’s office. Another witness who did not see the start of the fire, but saw Rusin in flames, called 911, McManus said. “She’s very shaken by the incident.”

Rusin was taken by a Bethpage Fire Department ambulance to the Nassau County Medical Center in East Meadow, where he was pronounced dead at 4:40 p.m.

Rusin, who would have turned 88 later this month, was returning home with groceries from a Bethpage King Kullen supermarket, officials said.

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